Is being an atheist an act of faith?

I mean, you have no proof that god does not exist, you believe god does not exist the same way religious folks believe in god without any evidence.

Posted: January 31st 2011

brian thomson www

I think part of the problem here is the word “believe”. It means different things to different people in various contexts.

For example, if I say “I believe the Sun will rise tomorrow”, is that an act of faith? No, because it’s based on an understanding of the motion of the Earth. If it doesn’t rise tomorrow, there will be a reason for it, one subject to scientific investigation. But I still believe the Sun will rise tomorrow.

One of Paul’s letters in the Bible describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen”. Back in those days it was only possible to see things with the eye, but that is not the case today: we can detect and observe things invisible to the human eye, but that is still “seeing” in a wider scientific sense. So I know that I don’t have faith by his definition, because there’s a fundamental contradiction in it: if we can’t detect or perceive something at all, how can we use the word “evidence” to describe it? Does Not Compute!

Posted: February 9th 2011

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Steve Zara www

There is proof that god does not exist. There is as much proof that god does not exist as there is proof of anything. Every day that passes brings us more proof. For thousands of years believers have searched for gods. First, they saw them in rocks, in trees, in streams. But those gods vanished. Then they saw gods at the tops of mountains, and in the skies. Those gods disappeared as we explored the world. Then, gods re-appeared in the heavens, the divine realm. Galileo looked through a telescope and saw the heavens were imperfect. Centuries later Gagarin looked out into space, and reported no god. God, supposedly omnipresent, shifted to beyond time and space, and beyond evidence and reason.

Thousands of years of searching have shown nothing. A frequent response from believers is “you can’t prove a negative”. That statement is all the proof we need that there is no god, it’s an admission of defeat, that is no evidence for god, and no other justification for belief.

If there was a god, there would be no need for prayer, no need for churches or mosques, no need for priests or Imams. God would be a real as your neighbour, as approachable as your friend.

Atheism is not an act of faith because there is nothing to have faith in, there is no evidence to reject to get to atheism, no miracles to wonder at to get to atheism, no holy words to reinforce belief, no sacraments or rituals. It’s not being bothered by faith. It’s having a lie in on Sundays. It’s not needing a compass to find Mecca. It’s being able to drive on the Sabbath.

Posted: February 3rd 2011

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Paula Kirby www

Not at all. Disbelief is the only rational stance to take when those who proclaim the existence of something have so signally failed – and not just now, but over millennia – to produce any evidence whatsoever to support their claim.

Posted: February 3rd 2011

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Eshu www

How could you ever have proof that something doesn’t exist? Proof that something exists is usually easy to find – if that thing exists. But how could you prove that any apparently imaginary thing doesn’t exist? Does that mean we have to believe in everything if we don’t want to resort to faith?

Most of us are “weak atheists” aka “agnostic atheists”. We don’t believe in any gods, but we’re not saying strictly, “There are definitely no gods”.

Wikipedia has a nice diagram describing this distinction.

We can only believe what makes sense to us from the evidence we’ve seen.

For atheists, the evidence for gods is so far lacking, so we cannot believe in them.

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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I disbelieve that unicorns exist, a unicorn being defined as an animal resembling a horse or goat that has a single large horn in the center of its forehead.

I also disbelieve in the existence of god, but it’s a different situation, because I haven’t come across a coherent definition of what this god is, and I don’t think one can rationally discuss the existence of something without such a definition – the term “exist” doesn’t apply.

Having said that, my position is different from yours in that I can find out if I am wrong. If, for example, I came across an example of some old-time biblical miracles (walking on water, raising the dead, etc.) and was convinced that I wasn’t hallucinating or being deluded in some other way, that would force me to reevaluate my position. Though at that point Clarke’s dictum probably applies (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), so it’s hard to tell the difference between powers that I’d call “godlike” and the actual appearance of a god.

Can you tell me what evidence would convince you that god doesn’t exist? It’s pretty arrogant to hold beliefs that can’t be corrected if wrong.

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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George Locke

Whatever God hypothesis you hold, it must be either testable or unfalsifiable, and in either event it is probably an incoherent idea.

The testable God is the one that answers prayers, heals the sick, etc. Well, there are no miracles. Prayers are not answered. So, if you define God as a being which answers prayer, there’s proof in hand that this God doesn’t exist. You can wiggle around and say that God answers prayers in its own way, but that brings us to the next problem.

If the presence of God is indistinguishable from its absence, then God is unfalsifiable. If you said that God answers prayers in its own way, you’d be saying that no matter what happens after I pray, goddidit. No conceivable outcome could possibly be inconsistent with the statement “God answers prayers”. The problem then, is that there is no distinction between God answering prayers and God not answering prayers. If there’s no difference between an answer to prayer and no answer, then we have two hypotheses explaining the same data, and we just pick the simpler one: there is no God.

Finally, we have the problem of an incoherent God. God loves us infinitely, but there is disease and suffering. God is omnipotent and omniscient, but we have free will. God is beyond human comprehension, but we may know it. The worst is to say that these problems are soluble only through God, in whom the impossible is possible. None of these claims make any sense! They are as self-contradictory as a triangle with four sides. I don’t even know what it means to say that you believe any of these things.

Now then, where did the faith come in?

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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Blaise www

This is a classic case of what psychologists call “projection”. Since you have faith, you assume that everyone else must have faith as well, whether or not they share your particular brand. However, the vast majority of atheists do not believe your god does not exist. They simply find it equally as unlikely as every other supernatural myth man has made up over the millennia.

While it is true that a small percentage of atheists actively believe in the non-existence of your god, they are the exception, rather than the rule. For the most part, atheists are that way for one of two reasons. Either: 1) No one ever indoctrinated them with religious dogma as a child, so they never had a reason to believe in the first place; or 2) They were indoctrinated with religion, but at some point took the time to think rationally about whether there could possibly be any way to prove their beliefs were true, abandoning them when they found none.

I’ve heard it put this way: “Atheism is a faith in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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Philip www

I have no faith – faith is belief without evidence

I do not believe in anything, I’m an atheist, I don’t do that.

I’m a historian, I gather the all the evidence I can, check the sources, determine where the information is coming from and form a conclusion based on the veracity of the evidence available.

I also think the scientific method is an effective way of testing your ideas through rigorous experiment that can then be repeated by anyone also wishing to prove you wrong.

I gather that you are a Christian – from what I gather there are around at least 38,000 + denominations of your religion – do you not find it a bit odd that none of you can agree with what your deity does or wants out of it’s believers?

Have you not looked into the history of your religion to see how it originated and what influenced it’s creation and how it has evolved from the 1st Century to the 21st?

How about checking the historical worth of the book you derive your religion from – who wrote it, how many times it has been changed, how even the first full copy was made and who influenced it?

I have nothing but questions about your religion and that is why I have no faith in it – same as all the other religions – and I have never had any satisfactory answers or been shown any evidence.

I even find your question quite confusing – are you saying it is a good or a bad thing to believe in something?

I would ask you to read up on just what an atheist actually is and also, if you are interested, look up the history of your religion as I think it would help you understand why I do not believe.

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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I have confidence, not faith, that there is a high improbability that gods and the supernatural exist. I just do not bother with them or it, just like I don’t bother with any other entity that could possibly exist, like an invisible dragon under my bed.

Most atheists are agnostics, we do not know if there is a god or not, but because of the lack of evidence we have no god belief. Additionally, the Christian god is an illogical concept, so if a god does exist it is not that one.

You are committing the logical fallacy of false equivocation. Lack of god belief is not belief in god; confidence based on lack of evidence or evidence is not religious faith based on personal subjective experience and fudged-together holy books.

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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Mike the Infidel www

You believe Thor does not exist.
You believe Zeus does not exist.
You believe Poseidon does not exist.
You believe Ahura Mazda does not exist.
You believe Xenu does not exist.
You believe Barney the Dinosaur does not exist.
You believe the Tooth Fairy does not exist.
You believe leprechauns do not exist.
You believe Quetzalcoatl does not exist.
And so on.

Sure seems like you have an awfully large number of faiths. Unless, of course, disbelief isn’t a faith, and doesn’t require evidence.

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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SmartLX www

If thinking or believing that something is true despite not being able to prove it 100% is faith, then we have faith in nearly everything we think we know and the term is meaningless. So yes, if you like, I have faith in some broad sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s on even terms with every religion. My faith is better supported than yours.

You believe despite a complete lack of evidence. I disbelieve because of that conspicuous lack of evidence. All the unambiguous evidence that should be all around us if there’s an all-powerful god who wants our belief simply isn’t there.

You have to explain away that lack of evidence by saying God is hiding His hand for some invented reason. I’ve got nothing to explain away – no verified miracles, no physical traces of anything Jesus did, no examples of irreducible complexity. So the world just as it is is consistent with the absence of any gods with no apologetic required.

Posted: February 2nd 2011

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